A fundraising campaign is underway to complete the federally mandated rebuild of Santa Fe 3415, the state’s official steam locomotive. According to Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad officials, the engine overhaul is required by the Federal Railroad Administration and is a process that must be completed every 15 years. The engine is currently out of service and will not operate until workers and consultants complete the inspection and rebuild of the engine’s boiler and flue system. Other components of the running gear and tender car will also be examined, repaired and/or replaced.

Given the fact that steam engine components are not in stock commercially and must be locally manufactured, the cost of rebuilding the 105 year old engine is expected to approach $600,000.

“We’ve already raised funds to pay for the initial phases of the project, and our efforts to reach our goal will continue,” said A&SV President and General Manager Ross Boelling, who added that the railroad has established a 3415 Fund at the Community Foundation of Dickinson County in Abilene. Boelling said that the fund will hopefully collect enough revenue to complete the current rebuilding project and the provide funds for future repairs once the engine is operational again.

Boelling said that the project has caught the attention of a well-known railroader who has agreed to chair the fundraising effort. Former Burlington Northern Santa Fe President and CEO Carl Ice of Manhattan is working with the A&SV Board of Directors in leading the massive fundraising project.

“The ATSF 3415 is a big part of the A&SV’s success,” said Ice, who noted that the engine symbolizes the impact of railroads in building the Kansas social and commercial infrastructure.

The Santa Fe Railroad gave steam engines to many communities when the ATSF converted from diesel to steam power in the early 1950s, and the city of Abilene was a lucky recipient. The engine sat as a stationary exhibit in Eisenhower Park for nearly 40 years before the engine was given to the A&SV by the City of Abilene.

The iconic locomotive was initially rebuilt under the leadership of A&SV founders Joe Minick and Fred Schmidt, who led a community-wide effort that began in 2006. The project was completed in 2009, when the antique engine began powering excursion and dinner trains on the Abilene and Smoky Valley.

Santa Fe 3415 is one of a handful of ATSF locomotives in service today. In fact, the Abilene engine is one of four reanimated Santa Fe engines in the United States, a factor that caught Ice’s attention.

“This is a wonderful story of a community stepping up and making the 3415 not just something that you see in a park but instead, a piece of living history.”

Boelling said that each of the seven members of the A&SV Board of Directors has made individual contributions to the 3415 Fund. Ice and his wife Mary have already made a donation, and Board members will be working with Ice in the region to secure financial support. After reaching a certain level of contributions, the A&SV will launch a massive public fundraising campaign, but for now, anyone wishing to contribute may do so at the railroad’s website, https://asvrr.org/improvement-campaign/

Boelling said that the railroad is documenting the massive task of rebuilding the engine through a special Facebook page, “ATSF Fans and Friends,” which contains photos and a description of the process.

The engine overhaul is being supervised by A&SV volunteers Steve Schwarting and Todd Walter. Consultants from the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Heritage Rail Management of Durango, Colorado, are assisting in supervising the project.

Boelling added that persons wanting to volunteer to be part of the steam crew may fill out an application at https://asvrr.org/volunteer/


The Kansas Department of Commerce’s “Sunflower Summer” program is a big success on the Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad. And there’s plenty of time to come to Abilene and ride the train for free if you are a Kansas family with school aged children enrolled in public or private schools in the state.

Records indicate that Sunflower Summer passengers have been responsible for over 50 percent of the ridership on the A&SV’s Flint Hills Express excursion trains, and there is no sign that consumer interest in riding on the state’s official heritage railroad for free is letting up any time soon.

“Kansas families can spend an entire day in Abilene,” said A&SV President and General Manager Ross Boelling, who noted that the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum and the Dickinson County Heritage Center are also Sunflower Summer locations.

“So many of the families have told us that they have never been on a train before, and that coming to Abilene for a train ride would not have been possible without the Sunflower Summer program,” Boelling said. He noted that passengers have come from all points in Kansas, with the heaviest ridership hailing from the eastern two thirds of the state.

According to Julie Roller Weeks, the Director of the Abilene Conventions and Visitor’s Bureau, Sunflower Summer is an initiative to encourage Kansas families with school-aged children to discover and appreciate the wonders of Kansas while supporting the state’s tourism economy.

Roller Weeks said that eligible Kansas families can download the Sunflower Summer App at SunflowerSummer.org to claim tickets to participating venues. The 2024 Sunflower Summer season runs through August 11.


Volunteers have begun the massive rebuild of Santa Fe 3415, the Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad’s prized steam locomotive. The rebuild, mandated by the Federal Railroad Administration, is expected to take nearly two years to complete, meaning that the engine will be out of service for that time. According to A&SV President and General Manager Ross Boelling, the overhaul is a matter of standard maintenance for steam locomotives.

“The Federal Railroad Administration requires us to inspect and rebuild the boiler every 15 years,” said Boelling. “As you can imagine, a steam engine is susceptible to rust, corrosion and other elements that can damage the engine’s body and parts. Those parts need to be inspected and many of them will need to be replaced.”

Consultants from the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Heritage Rail Management of Durango, Colorado, are helping the A&SV staff in leading the project. The first phase requires dismantling the locomotive, which leads to the detailed process of examining the boiler and other parts critical to the engine’s operation. The engine’s flue tubes will then be removed and replaced, and other repairs will be made as necessary.

Boelling noted that steam locomotives are much more maintenance intensive than diesel engines and are subject to constant maintenance. FRA inspectors annually conduct a safety inspection of the engine and any needed repairs are made before the engine operates. But the 15-year rebuild is mandatory regardless of the engine’s condition.

“A steam locomotive boiler is a high pressure and temperature vessel. As such, ensuring that proper maintenance, safety, and operating standards are followed is vital to preventing a catastrophic boiler explosion. Also, like your automobile, these behemoths are subject to normal wear and tear on non-boiler mechanical parts, including suspension, cylinders, brakes, drive train and wheels.” said Boelling. The railroad is operating exclusively with diesel power this season and as long as the rebuild process takes to complete. Boelling said the goal is to finish the work sometime in 2025 and return the engine to the railroad’s lineup. “We definitely want to be done in time for the United States’ 250th birthday on July 4, 2026. This engine is a Kansas icon, and we don’t want it down for very long.”

The cost of the rebuild is expected to approach $600,000. Boelling said that a fund has been established through the Community Foundation of Dickinson County. A combination of donations, grants, and contributions from the public is being used to finance the project, and details of a formal campaign to complete the project are forthcoming. 

Santa Fe 3415 is one of about 200 steam engines still in operation nationwide. It is the only operating steam locomotive in several Midwestern states and is a popular tourist attraction. Boelling said the engine was responsible for about 75 percent of the railroad’s Flint Hills Express excursion business last year. The engine has been featured on various television programs and in many train-oriented publications, and railroad enthusiasts from across America have come to Abilene to photograph the engine. Last year, 30 railroad photographers gathered here for a photo shoot organized by St. Louis advertising executive Dak Dillon. 

As a further tribute to the iconic engine, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed legislation on April 18 that names ATSF 3415 as the state’s official steam locomotive, making the engine an official Kansas symbol. The legislation was introduced and championed by Abilene State Representative Scott Hill, with assistance from Enterprise and St. Andrews fifth grade elementary school students. The legislation was introduced in the Senate by Sen. J.R. Claeys of Salina.

Boelling said that the A&SV has enlisted several volunteers to help in the rebuilding effort. “When you’re a mechanic, being able to say that you’ve worked on a steam locomotive is a real badge of honor,” said Boelling, who noted that the engine’s original rebuild, completed in 2009, was the product of over 12,000 hours of donated labor from mechanics in the area. That rebuild attracted machinists from across North Central Kansas and took over three years to complete. Boelling said that the railroad is always interested in attracting more qualified volunteer help. Applications are available at the railroad’s website, asvrr.org/volunteer.

“We also are happy to receive contributions for the rebuilding effort from the public,” said Boelling, who said that contributions can be made electronically at https://www.communityfoundation.us/donate.cfm?fid=3780#top-of-form.


Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has signed legislation that officially designates the Abilene and Smoky Valley as the state’s official heritage railroad. The legislation, HB2481, also names Santa Fe 3415, the railroad’s prized steam engine, as Kansas’ official steam locomotive. The bill passed the House and Senate unanimously. The designations are expected to give the railroad more statewide stature, while greatly enhancing the non-profit association’s ability to obtain grants and other funding options.

“This is indeed an honor,” said A&SV President and General Manager Ross Boelling. “Our organization was founded three decades ago on the idea of preserving the legacy of railroads as builders of our state. It’s great to make our mission an official Kansas tradition. More importantly, this designation is a great recognition of our volunteers and the tens of thousands of hours they have dedicated to the A&SV.” While the official status will be used as a focus in grant writing, Boelling said the A&SV will immediately begin branding itself as “the Kansas heritage railroad.” A logo has been designed that incorporates an image of Santa Fe 3415 with the railroad’s new slogan.

The legislation was the idea of State Representative Scott Hill of Abilene, who introduced separate bills in the House on January 12, one for the state heritage railroad designation and the other naming Santa Fe 3415 as the official state steam locomotive. As the bills made their way through the sometimes tenuous legislative process, they were first combined into a single bill and finally bundled together with other transportation related bills. The bundled bill was unanimously passed by the House 120-0 and Senate 39-0.

The bills first advanced to the House Transportation Committee, where Boelling was joined by Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Julie Roller Weeks and fifth grade students from Enterprise Elementary School, all testifying about the railroad’s local and statewide impact. The bills passed the House on a 110-7 vote and were sent to the Senate, where Sen. J.R. Claeys of Salina introduced the legislation. In the Senate Transportation Committee hearing, Hill, Boelling and Weeks were joined by fifth grade students from Abilene’s St. Andrew’s school in testifying about the railroad’s role in educating young people about the history and purpose of railroads. The bill advanced to the full Senate, where it passed on a 39-1 vote. The legislation went to a conference committee, then was advanced to both houses for Wednesday’s final vote.

“This proposal got lots of great support,” said Hill in referring to the positive testimony that was presented before the committee hearings. Hill said the testimony positively influenced his legislative colleagues. “The idea caught on for a lot of legislators,” he said. Hill said he was inspired to introduce the bill after observing A&SV operations, riding on trains powered by the steam engine, and upon meeting many of the railroad’s volunteer staff members. “The dedication of the volunteers was so inspirational…the dedication of the staff is indeed infectious,” said Hill, who added that the Santa Fe steam locomotive is a keystone of the railroad’s uniqueness. “The mechanic in me goes crazy every time I watch it in operation.”

From the standpoint of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Roller Weeks said the A&SV’s new statewide status adds even more importance to the overall story of Abilene’s colorful history as reflected in the city’s museum district.“This recognition highlights our town’s commitment to preserving our state’s rich railroad heritage. It’s attractions like this that contribute to Abilene consistently being named a best small town, offering visitors a unique and immersive experience in our history and culture.”

The Abilene and Smoky Valley is the only excursion railroad experience in Kansas and Santa Fe 3415 is the only operating steam engine in several Midwestern states. One of about 200 operating steam engines nationwide, the locomotive enjoys national prominence and is a popular tourist attraction. The engine is out of service this season, pending the Federal Railroad Administration’s mandated rebuild, which happens every 15 years. Boelling said the A&SV will be kicking off the ATSF 3415 rebuild project and fund raising in the next few weeks.



A familiar sight on the Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad will not be in service this season. Santa Fe 3415, the railroad’s iconic steam locomotive, is out of service for required maintenance until next year.

But Midwest rail fans will be introduced to an addition to the railroad’s lineup of antique engines, as the A&SV is inaugurating an 84 year-old rehabilitated General Electric 44-ton locomotive this season. And according to A&SV President and General Manager Ross Boelling, the engine had a remarkable career before finding its way to the heritage railroad’s yard located west of Cherry Street.

“We’ve always needed more engines in our lineup,” said President and General Manager Ross Boelling. “This engine, like our other vehicles, is being remodeled for modern use, and we expect it to generate interest among railroad enthusiasts.”

The GE engine began its long career in Kansas on September 26, 1940, as one of two of its class manufactured for the Arkansas Valley Interurban Railway in Wichita. It was listed on the AVIR schedule as Engine 93 and hauled passengers between Wichita and Hutchinson, until the line shut down in 1942. The engine was promptly acquired by the U.S. Army for wartime use and was shipped to San Bernadino, California, for use at the Norton Air Force Base. In 1969, the engine was transferred to the Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah, for storage, until it was purchased the following year by Houston Track and Equipment in Texas. The engine was then acquired by Ideal Portland Cement in Superior, Nebraska, where it worked hauling rock between quarries and the company’s processing plant for several years.

In 1995, a private collector in Wichita acquired the 44-ton engine from Ideal Cement. According to A&SV founder Joe Minnick, the collector worked out an agreement with the Abilene and Smoky Valley to store the vehicle in the A&SV Abilene rail yard with the understanding that the railroad could use the engine for its excursion runs to Enterprise. The collector later donated the engine. Minnick said the engine was used sparingly by the A&SV until 2002, when sporadic engine problems forced the A&SV to discontinue use of the engine.

But interest in restoring the engine began last year when the railroad began to look for alternative sources of power to back up the railroad’s Alco S-4 switch engine, which has powered most of the A&SV’s trains since 1993. An examination by technical consultants from the Durango and Silverton in Colorado revealed that the locomotive’s engine could easily be repaired and placed in service. But the wheels, which were manufactured with the engine in 1940, were so badly worn beyond repair, and new ones would be required before the engine could be put into service.

According to Boelling, the railroad is purchasing new wheels, a $30,000 expense.

“Even though the engine was manufactured 84 years ago, we are unable to do this remodel at 1940 prices. Wheels for the engine, like all its components, are expensive today, and that’s the problem with running a railroad using antique equipment.”

Boelling said the engine refurbishment is being paid for by a combination of grant monies, donations, and bank loans. The engine is expected to be in the A&SV’s regular lineup sometime this summer, and its use will be alternated with the Alco diesel switch engine. Boelling said a formal christening and public showing of the GE engine is being planned.

“This locomotive is the sixth of this model to be manufactured by GE and today, it is the oldest surviving unit of this class,” Boelling said, adding that the reconditioning is in line with the A&SV’s mission to give new life to antique rolling stock.

“This is another kind of diesel engine that most modern day spectators have likely not seen, and its compelling story further enhances our mission of telling the story of how railroads have served the people of Kansas.”

Improvement Campaign

We are facing a federally mandated major rebuild of our steam locomotive, former ATSF #3415, after the 2023 operating season.  Our ability to raise funds to accomplish the rebuild will determine how long it will take, but we anticipate it being a two year project.  We also are seeking matching funds for grants that will allow improvements to our passenger cars which will include new air conditioning, new PA system, and new electrical generator to power them.  Your help would be gratefully appreciated.  Click HERE to take you to a page with more information on these projects and with links to make a quick and convenient on-line donation to either project.  Thanks in advance for your consideration and donation.  Any amount will help and will be greatly appreciated.

Visit the Hoffman Grist Mill in Enterprise

The Hoffman Grist Mill adjacent to our tracks in Enterprise is UP AND RUNNING!  Various types of flour from the Grist

Mill are available to purchase along with many other items in the Mill Store and Gift Shop.  Ride one of the regular

excursions on the Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad from Abilene to visit the Grist Mill during the train layover in Enterprise.  

(More information HERE.)


We appreciate your support!

We also certainly appreciate our volunteers who keep

the train running for your enjoyment!

Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad Releases Schedule For 2023 Cowtown Santa Express Holiday Trains

The “Cowtown Santa Express” will return to the Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad this coming holiday season, as the A&SV expands its 2023 schedule to include more trains stocked with hot chocolate and cookies, holiday music and, of course, Santa himself. 

            The railroad hauled over 1,000 passengers for the holiday train’s inaugural season in 2022, which forced A&SV officials to significantly increase seating capacities for this year. 

            “Last year, we were new at developing holiday trains and anticipating their popularity,” said A&SV President and General Manager Ross Boelling. “We actually had to turn away people because our trains quickly sold out, so we’ve significantly increased the number of trains we will run this season.” 

Boelling released the 2023 holiday schedule last week, featuring 30 trains that will run from Wednesday, November 22, the day before Thanksgiving, and conclude on December 23. Two trains will run each evening at 5:00 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The train and the 1887 Rock Island Depot will be decked in holiday lights, and the railroad’s heated antique passenger cars will be decorated inside. 

This year, the A&SV is offering “value” and “premium” pricing levels, with fares increasing as time draws closer to Christmas. Families will be allowed to reserve full tables in the Chicago car, while single seats will be available in the Enterprise coach. Families reserving tables in the Chicago car will be required to purchase an entire table of four. 

Volunteer decorators will begin outlining the engine, passenger coaches, and the caboose in lights while also decorating the interior of the passenger coaches after the railroad’s November 4 dinner train. Boelling said it takes about two weeks to transform the A&SV train consist into a festive holiday experience. 

Although A&SV officials were surprised at the demand for tickets on last year’s Cowtown Santa Express, Boelling recounted a reason for the train’s popularity: nostalgia.  

“There’s something about trains and Christmas that go so well together,” said Boelling.  

“At one time, train travel was the major mode of holiday transportation when people traveled across America to visit relatives. Today, trains are still popular at Christmas, as so many grownups likely developed an interest in railroads because they got electric trains for presents as kids. And movies like The Polar Express have increased train popularity with new generations young people. 

“We’re happy to bring those associations to life and give kids of all ages a Christmas they will never forget,” Boelling said.


Ross Boelling (BOWL-ing)


Ross Boelling  (913) 449-3066

Steve Smethers (785) 341-1926

Download the Sunflower Summer app to ride a Flint Hills Express excursion train with us this summer. Sunflower Summer Tickets and rides are available May 25th through August 11th.

Our trains depart from our depot at 10AM and 2pm Wednesday through Saturday and at 2PM on Sunday.

 You need to arrive at our depot at least 30 minutes prior to departure times to make sure you have time to get your ticket. 

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